Recently I’ve been reading about an Internet shopping company in China that is larger than Amazon, yet in the U.S.A. we are only just beginning to hear about it. The company, or three pillars, as it’s founder calls it, consists of Alibaba, Alipay, and Aliexpress. Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built, by Duncan Clark, is the story of a former English teacher, Jack Ma, and the company he built from nothing to the largest initial public offering (IPO) ever in 2014.
Though the writing is rough and repetitive at times, Duncan Clark clearly has the inside track on Jack Ma’s life and company building over the last 10-15 years. This insider information, including Jack’s early Internet failures helps to explain how different and yet similar the business atmosphere is in China and the U.S.A.. From early startup days and venture capital fundraising to its current global market position worth billions of dollars, the process was very similar to stories of U.S. companies. With added complications of China’s central government of course. Which is where Jack Ma differentiated himself and his company from other global giants like Yahoo trying to enter into the Chinese market. I don’t want to reveal too much, but in the end, Jack’s companies have succeeded where a number of others have failed.
As a technology professional I tend to read a lot of technical non-fiction. However this book, while still about technology, contains little to no jargon or technical information. It’s really a story about business. In fact, Jack is not a software developer and seems to pride himself on not being one. I enjoyed the story and would recommend it if you are interested in the Internet business scene in China or just a modern Chinese business story.